Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tour of Idaho T1 2014: Day 7, Wallace to Sundance Lookout

Red Light Garage (photo credit)
Knowing that Day 7 was shorter and easier than just about any other day on the Tour (especially with the new finish at Sundance Mountain), I wasn't in a hurry to get going out of Wallace. I had also been up very late and had Kathy with me in the morning, so I was going to enjoy a nice, relaxing breakfast before leaving.

We walked over to the Red Light Garage restaurant for breakfast. It's quite a charming little place, just like so much of Wallace, where old buildings are re-purposed and remodeled into various businesses.

The Red Light Garage, decorated from floor to ceiling
After a very nice breakfast with Kathy, I got geared up, packed up and ready to go for the last day.

Getting ready for one more day!
I had mixed feelings getting ready that last morning. I was almost finished with a major accomplishment that I had been planning for the past several months, but I kind of didn't want it to be over. During the previous six days, I was living the T1. Every moment of the day and night had been about the Tour of Idaho. When I wasn't riding the bike, I was thinking about the bike, or the route, or what to eat, where to sleep, and on and on. It's just such an engrossing experience, and it's hard to be done and imagine going back to your ordinary life. The mental focus required really challenges your ability to stay on task -- allowing your concentration to lapse while riding can be disastrous. When you eat, breathe and sleep one thing for hours at a time over several straight days, it's a little hard to be done. I wanted to be done, but strangely, I didn't.

A couple of very nice Facebook posts by Martin that morning:
It looks like Steve Taylor will finish a very adventurous T1 epic today! Keep your fingers crossed!
 I want to give Steve Taylor props for his meticulous preparation - among the best I've encountered. I'll still have to look over his track, but if it's as good as I think that it is, his is a stand out trip. There are some folks who venture to the flagpole less prepared and I know beyond a reasonable certainty that if their gps breaks they will be eaten by bears before they ever get out of the woods. Yet Steve had enough comprehension of the geography of Idaho and knowledge of the roads and trails that he was able to improvise, on the fly, a way around the fires north of Elk City. And he kept going! I think that Steve now understands our recommendation concerning bright lights. Anyway, good on ya man. Best of luck today!
Leaving Wallace, it was a cool, damp-feeling morning. The skies were overcast, and you could tell that it wasn't going to be a warm, sunshiny day. I rode as hard and fast as my hands would allow to get as many miles behind me as I could while it wasn't yet raining. As I climbed up out of Wallace into higher elevations, it started getting colder. I was slowing down a lot to shake out and flex my hands to try to deal with the numbness that now seemed worse in the cold.

The fog rolling in early on Day 7
It seemed like having a low side crash had become a daily occurrence, but this time I hit the ground a little harder. I overcooked a curve to the left and locked up the back brake trying to get slowed down. The rear end slid to the right and Wralf and I went down to the ground. It happened in a fairly wide spot in the road, so I was never in any danger of going off the road, but it's still not much fun to crash. I wasn't hurt and neither was the bike, so I picked it up and continued.

Guess what? Another low side crash.

Moon Saddle
Al at Moon Saddle... I think he prefers the sunshine.
I left the bike idling while I took the above picture of Al and I realized that he looked as cold as I was and was probably shivering more than me:

Shortly after leaving Moon Saddle, the rain came. I found a spot, once again, to hide out in the trees to try to miss the heaviest part of the shower, but it was a heavy rain and the branches weren't very thick. I was getting wet anyway, and I knew that I would have dry clothes at the end of the day, so I took off out into the rain.

I started having a lot of trouble with my touchscreen around this time. I was having a really hard time even getting it to work at all without going crazy, because I didn't have any way to get it dry and no way to keep the rain off the screen as I was trying to use it. I was also having trouble getting my phone to charge. Through the entire Tour to this point, my phone was set to full brightness, set to never go to sleep, displaying real time navigation and recording a track. Doing all these tasks at the same time required me to to have it plugged into power the whole time, or else the battery would die pretty quickly. For some reason, probably because of the wet, the different charging methods I had (a charger powered off the bike's battery and a spare battery pack) weren't providing enough power to stay ahead. As I went, my battery was slowly losing charge. If I kept using it the way I had been, it would be completely dead well before the end of the day. If I remember correctly, I think it was down to 27% when I decided to power off the display, put the phone in one of my bags, and only get it out when I really needed it. The good news was that I was getting close to the point where I wouldn't need my navigation any more the rest of the way, since I was now riding in my back yard.

My Facebook post that I wrote to go with the picture below:
Pretty wet today... the worst part is that my touchscreen phone that I use for navigation goes crazy when it's wet. So right now I'm hunkered under a tree hoping the rain lets up. But it just feels like a cold, drizzly all day thing.
It was wet, cold and miserable for about an hour.
The road just below Spyglass Peak
Finally, about the time I passed by Spyglass Peak, the rain let up. Plus, I was now at the point where I didn't need navigation at all for rest of the day. From Spyglass, the route follows the main road down to Magee, then up Independence Creek and then the 14-mile Independence Creek trail. I had ridden this trail a few times already this year, so I was in very familiar territory.

By the time I was starting up the Independence Creek Trail, the sun was trying to poke out. That sure was a welcome sight, since I was so cold after the wet road ride across the ridge near Spyglass. Now there was a little sunshine and I was riding a trail, which would naturally warm me up anyway.

The trail was VERY wet, slippery and full of deep puddles for the whole way until it got rocky and steep near the top. I came out on Bunco Road at the upper end and knew that it was just a matter of time now.

Independence Creek Trail
Facebook post: "Made it through Independence
Creek trail and now on Bunco Road and FLYING

toward the finish, trying to beat the next
storm system coming my way."
My Facebook post from Bunco Road:
I really got dumped on today in the mountains above Wallace. Wet and cold. But the weather cleared for my run through Independence. Really wet and sloppy, but fun. On Bunco now heading for Anuth.
Once I was on Bunco and on such a familiar road and so close to the finish, I rode like a mad man. Other than my hands being sore, I felt great! Riding for that many hours for that many days put me in a mental state of complete confidence in my ability to handle the bike. As long as I was careful on corners and easy on the back brake, I could go as fast as I dared... and I was being pretty daring.

When I was first reading about the Tour of Idaho almost a year before this time, there were some things that I thought would happen that didn't. One thing that I thought was that I would have a really hard time passing within 10 minutes of my house without wanting to just go home and be done. Wow, that was SO wrong! I was so motivated to keep going and I was so excited to be almost to the finish! I thought my butt would be totally sore, but it wasn't, thanks to my new seat.

Coming down the hill on Bunco Road gave me a good view to the west, and it didn't look good. I could see some really dark clouds coming, so that motivated me to go even faster, without any stops or breaks. If I could ride fast enough, maybe I could beat the rain.

Near the top of Hoodoo Mountain... dark clouds coming.
Hoodoo Mountain
From the bottom of Bunco, through Athol, then Clagstone Road to Blanchard, I was going as fast as I could. I could see that rain was coming, but I was trying to get to the finish before it hit. I turned to go up Hoodoo Mountain and tore up that road, sliding around almost every corner like a flat track racer.

I stopped at the top of Hoodoo to quickly grab a picture, and then I was off to Priest River. I could see that I wouldn't beat the rain -- the dark clouds to the west extended to the north where it was obvious that there was already some serious rain coming down on Priest River and Priest Lake, so I was heading right into it. But it didn't matter -- there was a warm, dry truck with a change of clothes waiting for me out there somewhere.

Just as I was getting to Priest River, the cold rain started coming down on me. The temperature was only in the 50's, which was just so unexpected for mid-August. This time, I didn't even think about taking cover from the rain -- I was so close to the end and I knew that even if I got soaked, it wouldn't be for long.

I hadn't spoken with Kathy since that morning in Wallace, but she was doing an awesome job of keeping track of where I was by watching my tracking points. It was awesome that she was just as excited as I was about me finishing the Tour. She posted this on Facebook:
So proud of my husband! He's currently in the home stretch...
With perfect timing, she left home and was waiting on the road close to the Sundance Mountain Lodge, which is right at the bottom of the hill before you start climbing the mountain. At this point, I had been riding through a cold, miserable rain, but I wasn't going to stop. I rolled right up to the driver side window and said "I'm almost done! I'll see you in a few minutes!".

This was a part of the route that I hadn't ridden before. Martin had only announced that the new finish was going to be at Sundance Mountain after I had already started my Tour. I had only loaded the new GPS track showing the way that morning while sitting at breakfast in Wallace, but I didn't even bother getting my phone out. It was so wet that it probably wouldn't have worked, plus as far as I knew, the battery was dead anyway. I figured "how hard can it be to find the top of a mountain?"

Sundance Mountain Lookout!
Fortunately, my instincts led me directly up the right road road. It was a good, freshly-improved gravel road as it climbed, and then, about a mile from the top, I turned off onto a rocky, steep jeep trail. Riding up this rough road was a little slow-going, but it helped to warm me up a bit.

And finally, there it was! By the time I got to the top, the rain had stopped, and the clouds cleared away just enough to reveal a decent view of Priest Lake and the Selkirks.

I climbed up the tower and had a nice visit with Chuck, who was the volunteer manning the lookout. He invited me inside where he had a heater, and man, did that feel good! When I took my phone out of my bag, I was surprised to see that it still had about 10% left on the battery, so I stopped the track recorder, got a few pictures, posted on Facebook and got a text from Kathy that she was waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. Life was good!

Chuck told me a funny story -- he said that a few days earlier, he was riding his ATV down the jeep trail to go to town for supplies and ran into a Cadillac Escalade making its way up. It just looked out of place -- a $75,000 Cadillac just doesn't belong up there, but you can't tell that to the owner. It's funny, but I think the Escalade in the four-wheeling community is like the big ADV bikes in the off-road motorcycle world. Big, super expensive, heavy, way too luxurious and an owner who won't believe you if you tell him where he shouldn't go with that thing. It's the same on two or four wheels. Anyway, Chuck said he had to laugh when he passed them and could see the looks on the faces of the driver and passenger, apparently a husband and wife. The husband looked like he was enjoying himself behind the wheel, while the wife was just glaring at him the whole time, non-verbally saying, "How could you take my baby on this road!?" I had a hunch, so I asked him, "Did they have Washington plates?" Chuck said, "Yeah, they did! How did you know that???" LOL. I'll bet they were wearing matching Cabela's outfits too.  ;-)

My Facebook post: "It's 50 degrees and raining, but I made it!"

For being a rainy day, it was great how things opened up nicely once I got to the top.
Priest Lake
I got back on the bike and started down the jeep road. I figured I'd be riding all the way back down to where I had seen Kathy, near the Sundance Mt. Lodge, but she surprised me by driving the truck up the gravel road right to the bottom of the jeep road. She even backed the truck in, dropped the tailgate, set up the ramp and had the tie down straps all ready to go! She's just so awesome.

Kathy's Facebook post, which perfectly summed it up: "Mission accomplished! Steve, Al and Wralf have completed the Tour of Idaho. 1400+ miles, 7 days, desert, mountains, rain, heat, lightning, forest fires, evacuations, flat tire, torn knobbies, new friends, old hero and TONS of fun and adventure! Incredible job!"

The tire made it without any major failures., but lots of minor ones. It was looking pretty bald by this time.
Not only did Kathy bring me some warm, dry clothes, she thought of a couple other things that I didn't expect. She brought me a thermos full of hot apple cider AND a rice bag that she had heated in the microwave and packed in an insulated bag.

We got some really nice pictures between Sundance and Priest River. It had turned into a very picturesque evening, and I was enjoying the warm, dry clothes, hot apple cider, rice bag and just sitting back and being a passenger.

A picture with Kathy's phone, which has an HDR mode that's like cheating.

Mike Powell added this post on Facebook after I had finished:
Steve is a great rider and a total class - act guy. A man of conviction, he's a fantastic representative of his faith. I'm so much better for knowing him. Great job, Steve! !
I never had any conversations about my faith with Mike, but I was glad that I apparently handled myself in a way that gave this impression. My dad mentioned that he had seen what Mike said and thought it was really nice. I was glad to make Dad proud.

Kathy and I drove down to Priest River and had a great dinner at the Priest River Hardwood Grill. The clothes she had picked out for me were from my 55-pounds-heavier days, and even back in those days, I probably wouldn't have worn them outside the house, let alone out to eat. LOL. I swear I looked like quite the special kid. "I have fuzzy pants!" and "I'm warm!" where two things I felt compelled to keep shouting out with a silly voice. From head to toe, I appeared very disheveled, wearing baggy, non-matching clothes that looked like they were fresh from a rummage sale (or maybe several different sales... late in the day, after all the good stuff is gone). But I didn't care -- I was with my sweetheart and we were headed HOME, where I would get to sleep in my own bed that night.

The Tour of Idaho is an experience I'll never forget!

Day 7 Stats: 190 miles, 8 hours, 40 minutes
Day 7 Track


  1. Nice to get to read about your finish. Wish you had posted a photo of you in your warm clothes, it would have been a great closing photo. Are you going to do a stats page? You know costs, mileage, funds spent on gorp, ;that sort of thing. Nice job Steve.

  2. If I wrote up all the expenses, I think Kathy might just keel right on over. Well, I probably would too if I actually added it all up. One thing I do remember about spending money tho... it was really cool, during the ride, just feeling like money didn't matter. I would have paid Mike McGowan whatever he asked and wouldn't have thought twice about it. When I was on the Tour, there just wasn't any second thought to spending what had to be spent to accomplish the mission. That was pretty cool, but it was a little hard to get out of that mode when I got home.